This series illustrates COVID-19’s effect on Midwesterners — one person at a time.
Christopher Grimshaw is a native of Chicago, IL, who now lives in New York. He’s the owner of PLG Coffee House and Tavern, a cafe that strives to be a welcoming, family-friendly place for people to enjoy sandwiches, soups, salads, and smoothies. PLG has also been helping local healthcare workers by delivering food to them. He and his family traveled to their house in Catskills to be able to spread out and get away from the virus. Unfortunately, they already had it.
“We all had it. It started with Abigail (Chris’ partner), and she was really sick for a few days when we were still in Brooklyn. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, she was really, really, really sick. We both thought it was a migraine, and then it turned out she was vomiting a lot, which she doesn’t really get from migraines. And then she said she’d feel a little bit better by Wednesday or Thursday, I guess, to get out of bed, but then I was really, really sick. I couldn’t get out of bed. I wasn’t nauseous or vomiting, but had an extremely sore neck and upper back, with a slight fever. We didn’t realize at the time that was what was going on.
“Then that weekend, I mustered up enough energy and strength to bring us upstate [from our home in Brooklyn]. I went and got a U-Haul, hooked that up to the car, packed the thing all day. It was really rough. But at the time neither one of us thought that we had it, we just thought that, you know, we had some kind of illness, flu, or whatever. And we got up here, and we were both in just really bad shape. And again we thought it was just from all the work packing up the stuff we were bringing and the U-Haul and unpacking it, but then Abigail and [her son] Dyami both lost their sense of smell and taste, and again, my symptoms were pretty constant, but they varied in how severe they were.
“And then finally you start hearing on the news and reading about one of the symptoms people were having was the smell and taste thing and that was when we said ‘ah-ha we got the thing.’ And that was about it. It lasted for about three weeks, I think, with varying degrees of symptoms and the thing about this that’s so tricky is that you start to feel better and you think ‘ah, I’ve licked this thing.’ And then, all of a sudden, it comes back even harder. I’ve never had walking pneumonia, and that’s almost how I’ve heard it described. You’re sick, but luckily for us not deathly ill, where we felt like we had to go to the hospital. But it was really uncomfortable and sore and just relentless. And so I guess, I don’t know, maybe it’s been two or three weeks that we’ve been recovered.
“It’s so hard to tell time nowadays. All the days blend together, but it’s been a minute. But I had a few occurrences where I’ve been concerned where I’m getting it again, across my back or my neck will get sore, so it’s almost like this PTSD element to it, you know. You’ve been scared that it’s going to come back.
“[At PLG Coffee House and Tavern] we’re doing quite a bit. We’ve been feeding the emergency room, part of the emergency room anyway. We’ve been at the hospital for the King’s county, which is a county that Brooklyn is in. We’ve been doing that for just, I can go back and check, but it’s about three weeks. And we’ve also been doing intermittent lunch feedings at Downstate Hospital, which is the University, the teaching hospital in Brooklyn. We’ve done those at least one of those at least once a week, and those are really big orders. Those are like a hundred people at a time.
“We just did one [feeding] Friday night that a church donated that was for fifty people. So we close at three-thirty nowadays because of the virus, we normally close at five, but that was a delivery for 6 pm. We stayed open late just to do that, so we ended up losing money on the whole thing because I had to have two guys stay late and then the doctors were super busy, so my guys ended up waiting for an hour for them to come out and get the food. So, you know it cost me a lot to do that, but I’m happy to do it. I’m in the final stages of signing a contract with the mayor’s office. Bill De Blasio’s office is feeding the King’s County medical examiners, the, you know, the medical examiners, pathologists, the King’s County-I believe they’re all in the King County’s property. That’s going to be 25 lunches every day for 60 days. So that’s going to be huge for us to have that income coming in, which will then enable me to then give my guys more hours.
“You know, I obviously gave them a nice discount, because they had a cap on what they could spend. But again, I’m happy to do it for the medical examiners who are being worked to the bone. I was going to say ‘death’, but that wouldn’t be too good. And to give my guys more hours to prepare the food and then have somebody run it over.
“You can only clean so much, you can only cook so much, go outside and try developing a new hobby, stay in contact with people by telephone or Zoom so that you would have some kind of interaction. And if you need some kind of help if you’re struggling, then reach out and ask somebody for help and don’t be ashamed of that. Don’t suffer in silence. Don’t watch too much tv, I would say. I’ve been watching my own children suffer through that sometimes. Too much screen-time is definitely not good for you. But to just stay engaged and as busy as you can. I’m obviously no expert on that, but I know that I’ve had to stay busy. So if I sit too long, then I’m going to stress too much. I think about too much and sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night worrying about stuff and it’s not good.
“It’s a challenging time for everybody, but I do believe that we’re going to come out stronger on the other end. We’re really given a chance to examine ourselves as individuals, and as a community and as a larger society, I think. Through this, it’s shown that people are really sticking together and getting through this together. And no matter what they’re hearing from the federal government.”